Doubt shrouds Czech IFV procurement programme
The Czech Republic might delay or even cancel its programme to procure 210 new IFVs, which the country’s armed forces require urgently if they are to maintain combat capabilities.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced recently that his government might have to consider postponement or even cancellation of the planned procurement, which is the top-priority modernisation programme for the Czech Armed Forces.
‘The army can wait. We probably do not need infantry fighting vehicles immediately, but we need other things for this coronavirus war’, Babiš said on 17 March.
The programme has an estimated value of CZK50 billion ($1.9 billion). The plan called for the new IFVs to equip the Czech Army’s 7th Mechanised Brigade, which currently operates obsolete BVP-2s and modernised T-72M4CZ MBTs.
The Czech MoD, which received preliminary bids in late 2019, was expected to select the preferred platform and make a final recommendation to the government this year. Under the new circumstances the MoD might withhold negotiations with bidders, while awaiting further instructions.
Rheinmetall Landsysteme is offering its KF41 Lynx as a candidate for the IFV programme. Despite foreseeing difficulties given Babiš’s announcement, the German manufacturer remains committed to the Czech procurement programme and future cooperation with the local defence industry.
The other two contenders in the Czech IFV programme — General Dynamics European Land Systems with ASCOD (pictured above) and BAE Systems Hägglunds with CV90 — had not provided any comment at the time of writing.
‘Rheinmetall views the Czech Republic as a key market and will continue to invest and partner with Czech companies for the foreseeable future. We will fully respect the decisions of the Czech Ministry of Defence and comply accordingly,’ said Oliver Mittelsdorf, a senior VP in Rheinmetall’s Vehicle Systems Division.
He told Shephard: ‘Rheinmetall is working closely with the Czech MoD and will do their utmost to meet their requirements of today and tomorrow. Rheinmetall will always remain open, transparent and flexible to the Czech government’s future defence, technology and automotive needs'
Despite the expected delay or possible cancellation of the IFV tender, Rheinmetall does not expect to modify or cancel its investment plans or business strategy vis-à-vis the Czech Republic.
‘Our strategy has always been one of a long-term investment in the Czech Republic with local defence partners. We do not foresee any changes in our commitment to working with the Czech defence industry and our plans have not altered one bit,’ Mittelsdorf explained.
In a broader context, he added that despite foreseeable problems as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rheinmetall will retain its connection with other countries in Central and Eastern Europe that are running procurement and modernisation programmes.
‘Our business strategy remains the same: investments, partnership, security and innovation. We remain extremely confident with our future cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe countries. Nothing today has changed this belief’, Mittelsdorf said.
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